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Broken Promises, Bold Dreams

I’m writing a novel of historic fiction based partly on the immigrant experiences of my grandparents and great-grandparents, both maternal and paternal. They were part of a wave of Germans from Russia, living in the Black Sea region of Russia before the twin revolutions of 1917: the February Revolution, which ushered in the short-lived moderate and at least partially democratic government of Alexander Kerensky; and the November Revolution, when Vladmir Ilyich Lenin and Leon Trotsky masterminded a Bolshevik takeover of Russia, ushering in 74 years of often-brutal Communist repression of the world’s largest country (by area).

Josef Stalin exemplified that totalitarian regime and, during his harsh, 30-year rule, millions of Russians and people from non-Russian ethnic groups were executed as enemies of the state or deported to Siberia. Once-thriving German Russian populations living in the Black Sea region, as well as along the Volga River, were among the victims of this genocide.

Fortunately, my paternal great-grandparents and grandparents left Russia early in the 20th century and ultimately homesteaded in Eastern Montana. About a decade later, in the spring of 1914 (barely two months before World War I broke out), my maternal ancestors also made the fateful decision to leave what had been their adopted homeland since the early 1800s and seek a better life in the New World.

And there are thousands of similar stories, among Americans of German-Russian descent now living on the Great Plains, throughout the Northwest and along the West Coast. My book will attempt to tap that vast river of experience – some of it challenging, some of it tragic, some of it joyous, but all an important part of our shared humanity.

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Jamie Larson